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Carthage family’s Christmas spirit on display

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WEST CARTHAGE — If you happen past Jeffrey S. and Heather M. Johnson’s home at 3 N Jefferson St., make sure your radio is tuned to 107.9 FM.

For their first year in Carthage, the father of three set out a Christmas display with light action coordinated to songs played on the radio frequency.

“We started out in Tulsa, Okla. doing basic stuff — inflatables with a few lights. In 2007, we added a music box, and we decided to upgrade this year,” explained Mr. Johnson, who transferred to the North Country to take a job as general manager for the Arsenal Street AT&T store in Watertown.

The display loops through nine songs, including Go Fish’s “Christmas with a Capital C,” Judy Pancoast’s “House on Christmas Street” and for fun, Ylvis’ “The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?).” Mr. Johnson estimates three more songs may be added to the selection before Christmas. This is the first time the display has run as a radio broadcast. Previously the music was simply played outside their home.

While the project started out as something fun for Mr. Johnson, it has since become a family tradition — one that was missed greatly last winter when the family was separated.

“I came to work here a year ahead of time, so we didn’t do it in Oklahoma last year,” said Mr. Johnson. “Christmas is togetherness and family, so this just makes up for last year.”

Since the whole family has relocated to Carthage, Mr. Johnson decided to do something bigger, which is why he purchased Light-O-Rama. The program allows for 6,000 lights and 16 channels compared to the former Mr. Christmas, which ran only five channels and could accommodate up to 4,000 lights. The whole system currently runs on 73 extension cords. The show goes for 25 minutes before looping back to the start.

As expected, the whole thing has been costly. Mr. Johnson could not put an estimate on how much money has gone into the lights and programming. The family says they make most purchases after the holidays when everything is discounted, and during the season, Mr. Johnson keeps his eye out for deals on power cords.

But he admitted their power bill usually goes up to between $100 and $150 when the power cords are running.

“But power is more expensive here,” he added. Most of their supplies have been homemade, including the Christmas tree made of light strings on the front lawn. A pole crowned with a ball of lights runs through the center of a trampoline frame for body. The family says there are more items to the display that they opted out of running this year, including a nativity.

“This year, we’re running with blue and white. I think blue is real pretty in the snow,” said Mr. Johnson.

“He once won a contest. He had another person go against him, and they thought it was amazing. They gave him a gift basket with blankets and hot chocolate,” 11-year-old daughter Hailey recalled.

“In 2009, TLC contacted me. They were interested in watching me build it,” said Mr. Johnson. “Back home, we inspired people to decorate in our neighborhood.”

“Neighbors back home say our house is decorated, but ‘it’s not what you guys did,’” said Mrs. Johnson, a native of Watertown. She added their home has previously been featured on the website tackylighttour.com, but as of Dec. 3, it had not yet been added.

“We want people to watch the show,” said Mr. Johnson. “For our family, we just love to look at Christmas lights, get hot chocolate and drive around.”

The show runs every day from 5 to 11 p.m. until Jan. 1.

For a sample of what’s in store, check out Mr. Johnson’s YouTube channel under Casinodealerusa for previous displays, or simply take in the magic on your own by driving past.

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